French-Iranian graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, an autobiographical series that was banned in Iran and removed from the libraries and classroom instruction of Chicago’s public schools in 2013, has now been translated into Kannada.
Chanda Pustaka, a publication launched by Kannada writer Vasudhendra, published the English-to-Kannada translation of Persepolis by Preethi Nagaraj, a journalist-turned-writer and translator. It has now adorned the shelves of prominent bookshops in Karnataka.
The original book sold more than two million copies worldwide and is taught in schools and colleges.
This autobiographical graphic novel is being compared to modern classics such as Elie Wiesel’s Night and The Diary of Anne Frank, as these three works proffer firsthand accounts of the atrocities of war, and racial and religious persecution in various parts of the world.
Persepolis is the Greek name for the capital of Persia. Interestingly Marjane Satrapi did not write Persepolis in Farsi, her first language. She wrote in French as she wanted to reach out to western readers.
In this graphic novel, Satrapi mined her childhood to provide a vivid and intimate glimpse of life in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Iran.
The story is narrated in stark black-and-white images as Satrapi’s 10-year alter ego Margji sprints around the war-torn streets of Tehran with her veil tied securely in place but rebelling.
She offers graphic details of the period including the overthrow of the Reza Shah Pahlavi (the last Shah of the Imperial State of Iran), the regime that replaced the Shah, and then the Iran-Iraq war.
Satrapi reflects on her life from ages 10 to 14 and the development of her perspectives on her family, culture, and country.
A successful film version too
Persepolis was made into an animated film by Sony Pictures Classics.
The film was co-directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007 for best-animated feature film and was also France’s Best Foreign Language Film entry.
This is perhaps the first graphic novel translated from a foreign language into Kannada.
Persepolis, which was initially written in French, was later translated into English in 2003 by Mattias Ripa, Satrapi’s spouse. Preethi Nagaraj’s Kannada translation is based on the English version.
Preethi Nagaraj observes that “this genre deserves a definite push in the Kannada language”.
Persepolis in Kannada, a challenging translation
When writer Vasudhendra referred Persepolis to Preethi Nagaraj for translating it into Kannada, she had only heard about it. On reading it, she understood that this was a challenging task.
She honestly accepts that the younger generation is more aware of the book. After reading it, she accepted the challenge of translating Persepolis into Kannada just because of the concept of shared struggle, which is a new norm of present-day global society.
Before taking up the project, the translator did a lot of research to understand the shifts of dynamics and political transformations in Persepolis.
“Finally I concluded that most nations have gone through similar struggles and the issue is almost universal. I realised one thing: Though women are real victims of war, their perspectives are absent in most of the narratives.”
She is happy that Persepolis was written by a woman and has now been translated into Kannada by a woman.
She took almost two months to complete the translation.
“The challenge was to find the most appropriate and contextual Kannada words for the English translation that fits into the tiny box. I loved this project, as it was a new format for me,” says translator Preethi Nagaraj, while sharing her experience with South First.
To the best of her ability, the translator retained the Iranianness of the work, as certain words were already translated and the description did not create many problems as feared in the beginning.
“I have tried my best to retain the originality of the work. I hope I have succeeded in my effort to make someone reading in a remote part of Karnataka get exposed to the ethos, feelings, emotions and language of the original work,” smiles the translator.
(Muralidhara Khajane is a senior journalist, writer, and film critic. He is the author of ‘Random Reflections: A Kaleidoscopic Musings on Kannada Cinema’)